Arizona routs UTEP in final tune-up before Maui

Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Guard Brandon Randolph (5) jumps to shoot the ball during the game against UTEP on Wednesday, Nov. 14 in Mckale Center. Arizona won 79-46.

Before traveling 3,000 miles to Maui next week, Arizona men’s basketball defeated visiting UTEP 79-46 on Wednesday in McKale Memorial Center in a game the 'Cats led from wire-to-wire. 

Arizona had three players in double figures, paced once again by the Brandons. Both Williams and Randolph scored 21 points, with Chase Jeter also pitching in 15 for the ‘Cats. 

“I’m just trying to make the right play and take what the defense gives,” Williams said. “No matter if I’m scoring or getting an assist.”

Arizona led by 11 in what was another sluggish first half. The ‘Cats jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead, paced by a Randolph dunk off of a UTEP turnover. Williams hit back-to-back three’s toward the end of the half to get Arizona out of a 1-10 slump they were in. Williams had 15 in the first half to lead Arizona. The Miners were able to keep things close at halftime thanks to the struggles from the line for Arizona, who shot 3-8 from the charity stripe. 

Guard Brandon Williams (2) jumps to score a basket during the game against UTEP on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Mckale Center. Arizona won 79-46. 

The ‘Cats started the second half hot, hitting six of their first nine shots to take a 50-35 lead, and never looked back. They shot a blistering 53 percent for the half and 49 percent overall. While the offense clicked, head coach Sean Miller said he thinks the identity of this team lies on the defensive side of the ball.

“For as new as we are together, I love the fact that we have a group of guys who are playing really hard,” Miller said postgame. “Evidence lies in the number of charges we tried to take and hard plays on the ball. For us this year, that’s the direction we have to go. We’re going to have to be an excellent defensive team.”

Arizona was able to hold UTEP to 33 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers in the win. The Miners shot just 31 percent from three, and their leading scorer Evan Gilyard was held to just four points on 1-11 from the floor. 

The win marked 250 at Arizona for Miller, who shied away from taking credit for the milestone.

Sean Miller, head coach of the UA basketball team, watches his team in action during the Arizona-UTEP game on Wednesday, Nov.14, 2018 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

“We’ve had unreal support of our basketball program, all the way from the top down," Miller said. “We have a group in our athletic department that do what they need to help us win. The renovations at McKale are a great example of that.” 

For the ‘Cats, the level of competition will pick up with the trip to Maui next week. 

“It’s a strong field, we have to go compete for three days,” Williams said. “One of those teams has to go 3-0, one has to go 0-3. We hope to come out with a couple wins.”

Arizona opens the Maui Invitational on Monday with a game against Iowa State. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPNU. 

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